`Super Eurocrats' to give EU a bigger world role

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The Independent Online
PLANS FOR two new super-Eurocrats, who would become powerful voices for Europe on foreign and economic affairs, are being discussed in Brussels.

The move would be part of a thorough shake-up of the European Commission, aimed at giving the European Union a bigger role on the world stage.

As such, it is likely to be seen by several larger nations, including Britain, as an attempt to turn the tide back towards greater central control from Brussels, of the type pioneered by Jacques Delors.

The move would also precipitate a new bout of infighting among the 15 member states over control of the new positions.

The plans, which are gaining enthusiastic backing from the smaller EU states, would merge the four Commission portfolios which deal withexternal relations, and combine the responsibilities of the two main economic commissioners.

The incumbents of both new posts would be Vice-Presidents of the Commission, with more resources and a bigger staff. They would be expected to play a leading role on the international stage.

The proposals would give a boost to long-standing backers of a common European foreign and security policy.

Final decisions on the shape of the new Commission will be taken next year at the end of Germany's EU presidency, but drafts are already being circulated in Brussels.

Thecreation of an external affairs supremo coincides with another initiative to appoint a new High Representative for common foreign and security policy.

The appointee is likely to be either a senior official or an experienced national politician, such as Felipe Gonzalez, the former prime minister of Spain, who at one time was the favourite to be the next President of the Commission.

Proponents of the plans say that the two external affairs roles together would form two-thirds of a new troika - the third member being the foreign minister of the nation holding the EU presidency.

However Commission sources concede that beefing up institutional structures can only play a limited role in forging a more active European foreign policy. Member states have to be willing to back their intentions with actions, over such issues as the violence in Serbia's Kosovo province, for example.